Day 74:How to Embrace Your Fear (Even if It’s Weighing You Down)

What are you afraid of?
What keeps you rooted to your comfort zone?
What keeps you from taking chances?
What keeps you from living the life you want?

I’ve lived much of my life afraid. Afraid to take chances – what if I fail? Afraid to stand out – what if someone laughs at me? Afraid to reach out to others – what if they reject me?

My fears weren’t unfounded. I had a hard time making friends as a kid. I DID stick out. I was goofy, geeky, and was into comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and reading horror and sci-fi books, when other kids were playing sports, partying, and doing whatever it was that cool kids did.

So I set up barriers. I found a menial job which was unfulfilling but safe. I ate for comfort, turning my body into a barrier. And aside from a few good friends, I kept to myself.

Eventually, I got sick of living in the shadows of what could have been.

I learned to take chances and now push myself forward despite my fears.

I’m not saying fear is bad. Sometimes, fear can be useful – it’s a survival instinct. It keeps us from doing incredibly stupid things like jumping off buildings or taking on an entire gang of thugs armed with nothing but our smart mouths.

The trick is to analyze and consider – are your fears protecting you or limiting you? If they’re protecting you, like in the scenarios above, by all means, LISTEN to them! However, if fear has overrun your life and has you afraid to take chances, then you may want to think how fear is serving you.

Here are some thoughts on fear and steps you can take to embrace it and move forward.

How realistic are your fears? Some fears are just plain ridiculous – the kinds of things that would never happen. Yet, we give them a power over us – and become victims of something which isn’t even taking place. Why? Examine how realistic your fears actually are. Are they based on past experiences? Are they purely in your imagination?

What’s the worst that will happen? Let’s say you take a chance and fail miserably? What happens? In most cases, our pride might be a bit wounded, we might be embarrassed, but we’ll move on, right? We might have to find a new job or change our plans. But if you can recover from your worst case scenario relatively unscathed, don’t you owe it to yourself to take a chance?

Bounce back! Let’s say the worst happens. You take a chance and fall flat on your face. You are STILL the same person you were before the failure. You CAN still succeed. You simply need to try again. Examine why you failed. Was it something you did? Was it something you had little control over? Perhaps it was one of those “right place, wrong time” situations? Examine, but don’t dwell on what went wrong. Learn and adapt. Many successful people have a long list of failed attempts prior to hitting on the thing which worked for them. The difference between success and failure is learning from your failures, adapting, and remembering to try, try again!

Play the odds. What are the odds that if you try something you’ll succeed? Maybe the odds are 20%. Maybe they’re 50%. Maybe even 80%! For the very fearful, they want assurances that nothing can go wrong – a 100% guarantee. Unfortunately, there are no such assurances in life. Remember that menial job I had? The “safe” one. Well, turns out if I hadn’t moved on, the store I worked at would have eventually been closed down and I would’ve had to find something else, anyway. Nothing is forever and nothing is certain.

No matter how slim the odds are though, one thing is certain. If you DON’T take a chance, the odds are 100% that you won’t succeed. When all is said and done, wouldn’t you rather say you tried and just fell short rather than admit that you were too scared to even try?

Use fear as a catalyst. Whenever I see myself falling into old fears, I get angry. I don’t want to be that weak person again. I’ve been down that road. I was miserable. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t like that person. I don’t want to be That Person. So I rail against the irrational fears and use them to push myself forward.

Get support. Develop a network of friends, co-workers, family, and mentors that can help inspire you to keep your head up. Sometimes, just knowing that other people are rooting us on gives us that bit of extra oomph we need to push through.


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David Wright is a ghostwriter who is chronicling his year in self improvement at Project 30 Days starting in January.